SUBA: Startup Buenos Aires

Posted on May 7, 2013 by Sharon Salt in EXPAT

Article by Sharon Salt.

As Lisa Besserman, 28, lets me into her apartment, she tells me she’s had a long night. Despite the feriado, she stayed up until 5AM working on a promotional video for her new company, Startup Buenos Aires (SUBA). “It’s great working for yourself, but it’s not always easy,” she says.

“You’re your own boss, but you’re also your own slave?” I suggest.

“Exactly.”

And Lisa has a lot on her plate right now. Not only is she the founder of the brand new Startup Buenos Aires, but she was also recently chosen to speak at Internet Week in New York City, an event hosted by Joan Rivers and Randi Zuckerberg. (Her topic? “Taking Your Work Mobile: The Art of Living and Working Abroad.”)

Like most expats, Lisa only planned to stay in Buenos Aires for a few months. At the time, she was working remotely for a mobile app development company. Unlike most expats, though, Lisa decided to quit her job in order to start her own company here in Buenos Aires.

Lisa had been active in the New York startup community, so she was excited to see what Buenos Aires had to offer. Unfortunately, she found nothing.

“The startup community is here, but it’s so fragmented,” she says. “Chile and Brazil have government support and funding for this kind of thing, but we’re lacking those resources in Argentina. This city has such a strong entrepreneurial spirit, so there’s a real need for it.

Despite the lack of a structured, centralized startup community – or maybe because of it – Lisa found herself networking and making connections for people almost immediately. People needed websites, people needed new logos, people needed projection charts. When she knew the right person for the job, she introduced them.

At a friend’s suggestion, Lisa decided to take the plunge. She quit her job and began to devote herself entirely to SUBA.

“It’s natural to have feelings of, you know, ‘oh God, what did I just do,’“ she explains, “but that was a driving factor for me. I had to quit so there was nothing to fall back on. I knew I needed to commit myself fully to this project in order for it to work.”

Now, SUBA is well under way. It aims to be a mobilizer for entrepreneurs in Buenos Aires, a place for them to network and find the resources they need. It’s also completely free.

For now, SUBA is mostly meetings and networking events, but Lisa has much bigger plans in mind. Soon, SUBA will also include a talent database organized by industry, and classes taught and selected by its members on skills ranging from Excel hacks to mastering social media.

“It’s people helping people. You get back what you put in,” she says.

When I ask Lisa how she plans to monetize SUBA, she laughs. “Everyone always asks that, and it’s a good question.” She explains that SUBA will be supported by domestic and international sponsorship, but a large part will also come from the SUBA internship program. Universities will hire SUBA to set up internships for select students, pairing them with local startups according to their majors and interests. Each intern will also receive housing, Spanish lessons, and cultural immersion activities. The first intern will arrive next month, and he will work alongside Lisa herself.

In the meantime, SUBA is continuing to grow, using local graphic designers for its logo, local web developers for its site, and local lawyers, of course, for all the other fun stuff. In turn, they become a part of SUBA’s trusted network and are referred to anyone who might need a similar service. When the talent database is built, they’ll have even more exposure.

“We have a very aggressive global PR plan,” Lisa says. “It’s just a matter of getting the word out, getting people involved, letting them know it’s real and it’s happening. SUBA is going to be huge.”

Look for Lisa the next time you’re out and about in Buenos Aires. If you don’t know her yet, you will soon.

Want to get involved? 

Startup Buenos Aires will hold its first public meeting on Monday, May 13 at The Founder’s Place, a Google-sponsored office. There will also be two guest speakers from Silicon Valley. You can find more details on the SUBA Facebook page.

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